Mayo Clinic today announced plans to establish the Mayo Clinic Proton Beam Therapy Program as part of Mayo's national three-site cancer center in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida. The new program will employ intensity modulated proton therapy — based on pencil beam scanning — which is a more precise form of proton therapy treatment that allows greater control over radiation doses, shorter treatment times and fewer side effects. It is also believed to be more cost effective in selected patients.
As part of the integrated program, Mayo Clinic will build facilities on Mayo's campuses in Minnesota and Arizona.
Of the existing proton therapy centers in the United States, few use pencil beam scanning exclusively. Pencil beam scanning uses a narrower beam than a traditional proton beam. All eight treatment rooms at Mayo Clinic's two new facilities will feature this advanced technology.
"We are enthusiastically moving forward with this program because we believe it offers additional, innovative options for cancer patients," says John Noseworthy, M.D., Mayo Clinic president and CEO. "As with all treatments offered to our patients, we'll include the proton beam therapy program in our teamwork approach of integrated care. We look forward to collaborating with other health care providers to maximize the full potential of the pencil beam scanning proton program for patients at Mayo and beyond."
The Arizona proton beam therapy program will be located east of the Mayo Clinic Specialty Building on the Phoenix campus.
"This is a very important addition to our campus and will significantly enhance the care we are able to provide to our patients," says Victor Trastek, M.D., vice president and CEO of Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
The experience at other organizations has shown that pencil beam scanning is an advancement over traditional radiotherapy to treat some cancers because its beam is targeted only to the tumor, sparing surrounding tissue, and can therefore be used at higher therapeutic doses and with fewer side effects. In contrast, a traditional X-ray beam passes through tumors, irradiating everything in its path. Pencil beam scanning also uses a beam that is much smaller than traditional proton treatments, allowing physicians to more accurately and safely destroy only tumor tissue.
"The benefit to children is especially clear," says Robert Foote, M.D., chair of Mayo Clinic's Department of Radiation Oncology in Rochester. "Children with cancer suffer the greatest long-term harm from conventional X-ray therapy since their organs are still developing."
The technology also will help advance the science of pencil beam scanning, according to Dr. Foote. "All patients receiving proton therapy treatments will be part of a patient registry that will allow Mayo Clinic to track these patients prospectively into the future, determine which patients gain the most benefit and incorporate these findings into new care models and services for cancer patients."
Mayo Clinic physicians and scientists will use the pencil beam scanning in treating some head and neck, breast, gastrointestinal, lung, spine and prostate cancers, and tumors in or near the eye.
"Protons administer a smaller dose to normal tissues for a given tumor dose than conventional radiotherapy," says Steven Schild, M.D., chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. "Our proton beam therapy program teams will work in concert to optimize patient care."
The design and construction of both facilities is expected to begin almost simultaneously. The facility in Minnesota will be located in downtown Rochester just northeast of Rochester Methodist Hospital (corner of Second Street Northwest and First Avenue Northwest). The first treatment rooms are expected to be open by late 2014 or early 2015, and the remaining rooms will be open between six and 12 months later.
During the building phase of each project, a total of 500 construction jobs will be created. When fully operational, the two proton beam programs will employ more than 250 new staff members, including 19 physicians and 19 physicists.
The proton beam therapy program will be fully integrated into Mayo Clinic's three-site cancer center in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida. More than 20,000 patients receive cancer care at Mayo Clinic each year.
"Mayo Clinic has a long-standing commitment of providing the highest quality of care to patients as a destination cancer center," says Robert Diasio, M.D., director of Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida. "Translating new discoveries to the patient is an essential part of Mayo's mission. We believe additional benefits of proton beam therapy will include research opportunities that will help advance new therapies for future generations."
The total capital expenditures for a four-room treatment facility in Rochester will be approximately $188 million and a similar four-room treatment center in Arizona will be $182 million. Funding for the projects is allocated from Mayo's capital budget and benefactor support.
Rafael Fonseca, M.D., deputy director of Mayo Clinic Cancer Center and a consultant in the departments of Hematology and Oncology, adds: "Patients trust Mayo Clinic to offer treatment solutions with the best outcomes and highest degree of safety. Adoption of proton therapies will set a model of cancer care and allow Mayo Clinic to lessen the burden of cancer on society"
Proton beam therapy is one form of charged particle cancer therapy. There are other forms that utilize heavier charged particles, such as carbon ions, that share the same dose distribution advantages as protons, but have been shown to be as much as three times more effective in destroying cancer cells as proton therapy. Even as Mayo Clinic develops its Proton Beam Therapy Program, it will continue to evaluate advances in the science and technology of radiation therapy using heavy charged particles to improve cancer care for patients.